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Innovation Hub: North County Biotech

by Neal Bloom

By Andrea Siedsma

Editor’s Note: This content was originally created by our team for the City of Vista

Across the globe, biotech companies have had to alter the way research can be conducted onsite due to social distancing rules brought on by Covid-19. While some biotechs have been able to maintain some critical research with a skeleton staff, others have been scrambling to find creative ways to keep their labs going. 

A premier incubator space in Vista is enabling biotechs to expand their footprint during Covid-19 and beyond.  North County Biotech, formerly known as the North County Biotech Incubator, is leasing its extra lab spaces to life science firms across the region that need extra space for their employees to work safely. 

Below we give you an inside peak at this burgeoning biotech space. 

Got Space?: Unlike many incubators that have large labs where people share equipment, North County Biotech’s six labs are all individual with dedicated, non-shared equipment, allowing tenants to meet social distancing needs as they conduct research.

“During Covid-19, companies are still doing research, but the problem has been, how do you maintain your research program and the safety of your employees with masks and safe distancing? With other incubators you can’t do that because you’re sharing equipment. Here we have dedicated equipment for each tenant,” said Founder Dexter Gaston. 

North County Biotech offers short-term and longer-term lab space.

Going the Distance: At North County Biotech, Gaston said companies have access to auxiliary, short term lab space so they can continue their R&D programs and maintain their level of employees while practicing social distancing.

“We have individual, furnished labs with dedicated equipment that would allow companies to use as an auxiliary lab during the pandemic as it provides social distancing and dedicated equipment only touched by that company’s scientists,” said Gaston. “Social distancing would not be possible in an incubator or lab situation where there are multiple companies in the same space using the same equipment.”

Gaston said having dedicated lab space for each tenant also “provides additional security for their intellectual property as well as timely use of instrumentation and assurance that another research team has not caused any potential contamination or misuse. 

The Deets: North County Biotech has fully furnished, multi-tenant laboratories, as well as five single-use labs, with a total of over 5,000 square feet of incubator space. The facility – which includes basic equipment for cell culture / drug discovery research –  has furnished and customizable laboratory space for short-term leasing. The incubator currently has three tenants using about 3,000 square feet of space. 

North County Biotech’s individual labs allow for social distancing.

Biotech Hub: The building in Vista was originally purchased in 2003 by Gaston and his family, who began operating as LabTrader Scientific Equipment. Then, around 2008, Gaston decided to lease out some office space and add some research laboratories. His goal with the incubator is to help turn Vista into a regional hotspot for biotech

“A lot of people say to me, ‘I didn’t know this was in Vista,” he said about the incubator. “I am extremely interested in helping move more biotech to North County. Sorrento Valley has become too congested.”

To further provide value for local biotechs, Gaston is also working with a local company that has training rooms and laboratories to create a virtual workshop/formal course environment. The goal is to eventually create a physical space for training. Topics for these workshops would include how to sterilize; proper decontamination; equipment calibration; good manufacturing practices; and biofermentation.

“Having North County Biotech in Vista further cements the City as a life science hot spot,” said Kevin Ham, Vista’s Economic Development Director. “Growing our biotech cluster in Vista will bring even more talent to the region and contribute greatly to the quality of life of our community.”


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